"From an educational point of view, I don't have a technical background". Britta Blum's statement challenges the notion that you need a technical qualification from the outset to succeed in electronics manufacturing.
Britta's journey at ESCATEC began over two decades ago. She has held many positions throughout her career and became General Manager in 2018. While Britta hadn't envisaged herself working in electronics manufacturing initially, she recognises that sometimes life takes unexpected turns, leading to fulfilling journeys far beyond our original plans.
In this interview, Britta tells us how she thrives on the dynamic nature of the industry, relishing the fast pace, vibrant culture, and opportunity to build meaningful relationships with colleagues and customers from around the world.
It’s not only inspiring to hear all that Britta has achieved in her career at ESCATEC, but it also serves as a resounding call to empower more women to pursue leadership roles in a traditionally male-dominated field.
How did you start your journey into electronics manufacturing?
It all started 24 years ago, in early 1999. A relative of mine was working as a Hardware Engineer at Wiltronic, which was later acquired by ESCATEC. They were starting to build a Design & Development department and investing in their own product development capabilities. My relative knew I was studying communication science in Vienna and the company was looking for someone to do the marketing for a new product. I joined as an intern for three months, and the rest is history!
What positions have you held throughout your career?
I’ve worked in a variety of positions including Marketing and Sales, as a Product Manager, an Account Manager, and as a Business Unit Manager. I moved into my current role as General Manager in August 2018.
What does your role as General Manager involve?
Every day is totally different and highly varied. I could be speaking with customers about existing contracts, working internally with my management team on new procedures, or heading out on a business trip to visit a new client. I’m also involved in budgets, dealing with sales forecasts, meeting group-level performance targets, as well as managing organisational change i.e. moving people between departments and promoting people.
What do you like about working in the electronics manufacturing industry?
I have always found electronics manufacturing extremely interesting. The projects we work on change all the time and you get insights into many different markets. When you look at the products and technology we were producing for customers 20 years ago versus today, it’s a different world. You also get to meet talented individuals from all over the world, and I’ve built long relationships with colleagues and clients. There’s always lots going on too. We have ups and downs in the markets and in the economy so we have to continually adapt and evolve the business accordingly. The pace is fast which means it never gets boring.
What’s been one of the highlights of your career?
In 2015 we were awarded a significant contract from a global OEM and the demand for their innovative new product went through the roof in just a couple of months. We had to implement a brand new production line very fast, invest in new equipment, and hire additional people to keep up with demand. At the time my role was Business Unit Manager and it was my responsibility to coordinate various internal teams and push them to come up with proposals and plans which could then be shared with the customer. As a team, we worked very well together and successfully met the demand from the customer. It was an amazing project for ESCATEC and it was great to play such a pivotal role.
How have you found working in the electronics manufacturing industry as a woman?
Personally, I’ve never found it to be a challenge and I continue to see more and more women join the business over the years. I continue to support and encourage everybody to consider management and leadership roles if, of course, these are the right path for them. When I first moved into a management position I was the only woman and now there are three of us.
At ESCATEC, a huge proportion of our workforce are women, and not just in functions like HR, but as production operators too. Although I don't believe there are any barriers for women to succeed in this sector, I would like to see more women consider engineering and manufacturing companies for leadership positions, and I hope that my story shows it is entirely possible.
What would you say to someone considering joining ESCATEC?
We have a good culture where people are friendly and many socialise together outside of the workplace. Our offices and production facilities are clean and modern and the customer projects we work on are really diverse - many pushing the boundaries of technology! I find that being involved in design projects that have not yet entered the marketplace is always exciting. With manufacturing facilities around the world and over 3,000 employees across the Group, there are always opportunities for staff to grow and develop their skills.
What would you have done if you hadn’t worked in manufacturing?
I have no idea! I didn’t picture myself working in manufacturing, it just happened. What do they say? “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.” Although I didn't originally plan to be here, I wouldn’t change a thing now.